Virginia Wesleyan Opens Softball Regional with Win Over F&M

Cassetty Howerin
Cassetty Howerin

ASHLAND, Va. --- Virginia Wesleyan used a five-run third inning and a three-hit shutout from Hanna Hull to open regional play in the NCAA Division III Softball Tournament with a 5-0 victory over Franklin & Marshall College on Saturday evening. Play will continue on an abbreviated schedule at regional host Randolph-Macon College on Sunday and conclude with the regional championship -- and possible "if" game -- on Monday in Ashland.

The victory moved Virginia Wesleyan to 44-2 on the season, which sets a new ODAC record for team wins in a season. Franklin & Marshall (17-22) remains in the tournament, but must win the remainder of its games to move on in the double-elimination format.

RELATED: Regional Host Website

After a pair of shutout frames by both Diplomats' pitcher Izzy Schaefer and Marlins' lefty Hull, VWC put up five runs in the bottom of the frame to account for all the scoring. Kiersten Richardson opened with a single down the left field line. She then swiped second base, marking her ODAC and Division III-leading 57th steal of the season. Liz Bailey followed with a walk ahead of Cassetty Howerin stepping in the box. The ODAC Player of the Year doubled off the fence in rightfield. Both Richardson and Bailey were forced to hold their bases as F&M outfielder Megan Ryan nearly made the play, but it fell out of her reach to allow Richardson to score. Bailey made it two runs on the play when the throw into the infield resulted in an error.

Blake Henderson kept the inning rolling for VWC as she single back to the pitcher to bring in Howerin, who had moved to third on the error. Henderson advanced to second on a wild pitch, which would proved moot after Hull's walk. Jessica Lindsay followed with a sacrifice bunt to put both runners into scoring position. Madison Glaubke made good on the small-ball effort as she singled in Henderson with a sharp knock back up the middle. Glaubke then stole second before Kaylah Duplain brought in Hull with a sac fly to center.

That's all the offense Hull would need as the ODAC Pitcher and Rookie of the Year was on her game in recording her 25th victory of the season. After giving up a first-inning single to Taylor Long and hitting Lexi Piccinich with a pitch, Hull retired 14 of the next 15 batters she faced before Sam Clemens singled via a tapper to third with one down in the sixth inning.

Hull allowed just three hits with one walk over seven full frames in the circle. She fanned nine batters on the afternoon, bringing her season total to an ever-increasing ODAC-record 284. That mark is second in Division III to St. John Fisher College All-American Lindsey Thayer, who opened the weekend with a gaudy 346 punchouts.

Virginia Wesleyan moves on to face Averett Univeresity (29-18) in the first of three scheduled games on Sunday in Ashland. First pitch is set for 11:00 a.m. at R-MC Softball Field. The Cougars took down host Randolph-Macon (33-10), 8-0, in six innings on Saturday.